The Weekend Australian - Review - - Visual Arts -

any­thing like Eu­gene von Guer­ard’s scrupu­lous at­ten­tion to ge­o­log­i­cal form. His rocks and moun­tains are im­pos­ing sil­hou­ettes, but they are not much more than that; they have no spine, lit­tle in­ner form. And at the same time his treat­ment of sky, wa­ter and clouds is ul­ti­mately facile: light ef­fects are more of­ten ob­vi­ous than sub­tle, and the sur­face of the broad ex­panses of wa­ter of which he is so fond fre­quently have a dis­agree­ably bland and al­most air­brushed qual­ity.

Piguenit shares some of th­ese faults with Nicholas Chevalier, but the cases are not ex­actly the same. Chevalier can be ob­vi­ous to the point of vul­gar­ity, rev­el­ling in showy ef­fects of light and choco­late-boxy com­po­si­tions de­signed to im­press an undis­crim­i­nat­ing pub­lic. Al­though Piguenit is also mak­ing pic­tures that are ca­pa­ble of ap­peal­ing to a rather un­so­phis­ti­cated taste — while I was there sev­eral vis­i­tors glanced at the show for a dis­tress­ingly short minute or so, rit­u­ally ob­serv­ing that the pic­tures were beau­ti­ful, be­fore in­stantly de­part­ing — he is clearly not vul­gar but rather, if any­thing, overly sen­si­tive and fairly pas­sive in his re­sponse to pic­turesque de­tail.

But paint­ing is not just a mat­ter of re­cep­tiv­ity and sen­si­bil­ity; it also re­quires the de­ci­sive, as­sertive im­po­si­tion of or­der that is the essence of com­po­si­tion. Ul­ti­mately, in­deed, com­po­si­tion must pre­cede ob­ser­va­tion — that is, one must have an idea of what kind of a thing a pic­ture is be­fore one be­gins to look at the world and set down its ap­pear­ances, just as one must have an idea of what a story is, or what the com­po­si­tion of a piece of mu­sic en­tails.

Of course, Piguenit was not com­pletely with­out ideas about the na­ture of pic­tures, but partly be­cause he was not prop­erly taught within a tra­di­tion, he did not as­sim­i­late a deeper un­der­stand­ing of the na­ture of land-

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